Behind Enemy Lines

August 28, 2018

After three games in six days, it's looking like Sheffield Wednesday did us a favour knocking us out of the League Cup. Of course, it's never great getting turned over on TV in front of the nation - but after a week which brought nine points, nine goals and plenty of smiles it's no bad thing not playing tonight or tomorrow. Those who aren't fit, or are a bit off the pace, have a bit more time to get up to speed, while the first team regulars who have done so well lately need a bit of a rest. They’ll have a spring in their step though - and will see doubtless see it differently,

 

Wimbledon was good craic, even though we weren't very good. After a pre-match warm-up in the Bricklayers and their club bar, I took my spot beyond enemy lines on the halfway line, next to our lot. For more than an hour there was precious little to get excited about. They closed us down well and we made little impression when we did get on the ball. The pattern didn’t change after they took a deserved lead – and getting through to half-time without going two down was the best we could hope for. We managed that but the pattern continued in the second half, them getting in our faces and us hoping they’d eventually run out of puff and we’d get a chance. And so it happened. About two minutes after a Wimbledon fan near me proudly told his mate – and half the stand – that Catts was the worst player he'd ever seen (presumably he was too young to remember their very own Ben Thatcher), our high-shorted midfielder stuck it right up them. Then he did it again. At the other end they failed to take some great chances, while Bryan Oviedo got away with appearing to keep one out with his arm. When that happened it was hard to bury the feeling there would be a happy ending – and so it proved.

 

Not being able to go ballistic at such an unlikely goalscoring double was frustrating but I wasn’t going to compromise the mate who’d got me in. Others in a similar situation found handing over their ticket in the home end for a transfer to our section a fair exchange. Not sure those whose names are on the tickets will be as happy if the stewards pass them over to the club, like...

 

Officially we had 727 fans there but you can add another couple of hundred to that based on what I saw elsewhere. There wasn’t a sniff of tension though - a credit to both sets of fans and an impressive stat considering more than 4,000 were squeezed into a ground which has hardly changed since I watched a non-league game there nearly 30 years ago (long story I won’t bore you with).

 

Good luck to Wimbledon. Still essentially the same club that punched well above its weight for years and is now back where it belongs above the franchise that tried to nick its soul but failed. Their supporters knew they were sharing their terraces with plenty of our lot but didn’t have much of an issue with it – our cash boosted their coffers after all. And to the lad who told me before he's never been north of Leeds but is relishing the return at our place and the subsequent night out, you haven't lived yet kidda, brace yourself.

 

There was a strange twist at the end as I left the ground, when one of our coach drivers – a Mag at that - tried to convince me it had finished 2-2 and, when I gave him a dodgy look, insisted I check the evidence on his phone. No thanks marra. Glad he wasn't driving me home. God knows what he’d have made of Marcos Alonso sticking it up his pals the next day.

 

The fact we turned in our worst performance of the season to date, yet managed to burgle three points, could be significant in telling us how 2018/19 is going to turn out. September brings Oxford, Fleetwood, Burton, Rochdale and Coventry – with several other teams still unbeaten and looking like they'll enjoy the chase, we need to keep it going. 

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At the back end of the 1980s, football fanzines began to sweep the country and in 1989 we were presented with a new vehicle on which to enjoy some of this ride – A Love Supreme. ALS was a place we could all go to celebrate and commiserate being a Sunderland fan. Win, lose or draw, the pages of the fanzine became solace for many of us as we stumbled our way through our day to day lives, punctuated by the ups and downs of more match days than any of us care to remember.

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